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Last Updated: Thursday, 27 January, 2005, 23:49 GMT
Attacks mar Iraqi vote build-up
US troops move in after insurgents attacked a polling station in Ramadi
There has been no let up in the pre-election violence
There has been another day of violence across Iraq, as the country prepares for Sunday's election.

Bombs and gun battles mainly in Sunni Muslim areas killed at least a dozen Iraqis and a US marine, while a clutch of polling stations were also hit.

Rebels have urged voters to boycott the poll, threatening more attacks.

In Australia, Iraqi expatriates have begun voting. They are among 280,303 exiles registered to vote in 14 countries, including the US and UK.

Nearly 12,000 of Iraqis have registered to vote in Australia - about 15% of the estimated 80,000 eligible Iraqi nationals.

The expatriate vote is running from Friday to Sunday.

In Iraq, electoral officials have said there will be as many as 120 international monitors supervising the voting there.

The chief administrator of Iraq's independent electoral commission has said a number of foreign embassies will provide staff to act as monitors, with some of them supervising the vote outside Baghdad.

On Thursday, ballot boxes were being put in position in southern Iraq.

Election threat

Militant groups called on Iraqis to boycott the polls, a day after US President George Bush urged voters to "defy the terrorists".

The militant Army of Ansar al-Sunna said in a statement that Iraqis who vote "will have only themselves to blame" as it threatened further attacks.

There is no electricity, no water. No human can live in our conditions and yet they expect us to vote
Ali Jasem
Sadr City resident

Another insurgent group, led by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, released a video showing the execution of a man it said worked as a senior aide to interim Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi.

In violence across the country:

  • In Mahmudia, south of Baghdad, a roadside bomb killed at least three people after missing a military convoy

  • A US Marine was killed in the same area, the US military said

  • Gunmen attacked a National Guard post in Ramadi, with reports of several fatalities

  • In Baquba, north of the capital, a suicide car bomber attacked Iraqi security forces, killing at least one person

  • In Samarra, bomb attacks killed at least six people, including Iraqi soldiers and civilians

Prime target

The violence has led to many candidates campaigning in secret, without revealing their names.

The BBC's Paul Wood, who accompanied two candidates campaigning in Baghdad, says people are taking seriously the threats by Sunni militants to wash the streets with candidates' blood.

Iraqi policeman guards a polling station in Basra

"I will not vote in these elections. Why should I? No-one did anything for us," computer engineer Ali Jasem, who lives in Baghdad's Sadr City slum, a Shia Muslim area, told Reuters.

"The streets are horrible. There is no electricity, no water. No human can live in our conditions and yet they expect us to vote."

Secrecy

In southern Iraq, British troops looked out for parked cars and signs of roadside bombs as they guarded a convoy carrying ballot boxes to the town of Majar al-Kabir.

A Lynx attack helicopter flew above the vehicles during the journey.

Correspondents say the tight security precautions illustrate fears that the predominantly Shia area could be a prime target for insurgent attacks.

The locations of polling stations are being kept secret until the last minute.

But four polling stations in Ramadi were reportedly hit on Thursday.

Militants arrived at one venue and ordered people to leave before blowing up the building, reports said.

The US and UK have pinned their hopes on elections robbing insurgents of support they currently enjoy throughout Iraq.

However US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said he expected violence to continue beyond the election.


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